ARC Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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Release Date: May 3, 2016

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A big-hearted novel about being seen for who you really are.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school. Like anyone else, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. She’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

But when she meets sweet, easygoing Grant, Amanda can’t help but start to let him in. As they spend more time together, she realizes just how much she is losing by guarding her heart. She finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself–including her past. But Amanda’s terrified that once she tells him the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

Will the truth cost Amanda her new life–and her new love?

If I Was Your Girl is a universal story about feeling different–and a love story that everyone will root for.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this ARC as a gift via Goodreads First.

+++Contains triggers for: assault, suicide, hate crimes, violence

If I Was Your Girl is important and necessary in educating others about difference and all the many wonderful variations that color our world. 

PROS:

  • There are some truly beautiful and profound moments that will make your heart feel so full and bursting with happiness and sadness. Mourning. It’s not something that many people think of from an outsider’s perspective. The loss of a former identity that someone never wanted, but was a forced reality because of gender assumptions. There’s a scene where, after surgery, Amanda’s mother is looking through photographs and crying about the loss of her son, as if he died. In a way, he did. This hit me really hard because you don’t really think about how this feels to a mother. Not off-hand at least. Russo pairs this with a celebration, a rebirth of sorts, because Amanda is FINALLY becoming the person she was always meant to be, even if her sex said otherwise. This scene was bittersweet and so refreshing-hopeful. That all parents could be so accepting and loving. There are also offhand statements that are so blunt, and said so casually they’re jarring, but reveal the bleak reality of just how much trans individuals suffer through. There’s a line near the end about cutting off hair and being buried in a suit, and my heart literally stopped, it was just so horribly tragic and upsetting. 
  • Being accepted as a woman is like a revelation for Amanda, and validates her decision. She’s who she was always meant to be, and though she fears letting anyone know about her past, embracing her agency as a woman is an awakening and continuous experience for Amanda. Coupled with first love, it is written so honestly, so fresh. Amanda is confused and conflicted. Her feelings are so hopeful and uplifting, you’ll want to bask in the purity of this new love. Letting herself love fully, Amanda is insanely courageous, not just as a trans individual or a woman, but as a human. 
  • The author gets the narrative from multiple sides without switching POVs. From the main character, to her classmates, to how her parents, and the community feel, it all comes together to create a vibrant picture of the adversity and assumptions that are made about people who are different. The fear that parents feel for their children, it’s gripping and brutal and heartbreaking that parents should have to feel so scared beyond the normal fear for their children, but that there are people filled with so much hate that are searching for people to make an example out of. 
  • The diary scene. My heart shattered. 
  • Read the author’s note and the dedications. Trust me.

CONS:

  • Scenes ended abruptly and events were summarized briefly in the next chapter. I felt let down by this sharp transition, I wanted more. I would have liked to have been shown, not told about what happened. 
  • Connections between characters were loose. While you can see the blossoming of friendships, romance, and other variations, the moments together are so brief and fleeting that it doesn’t solidify into anything more than surface. It’s like you’re watching from the outside and the emotions are not as potent as they could have been. On one hand, it’s understandable because Amanda is scared. She’s never had friends, she doesn’t know who to trust, and she has been wronged so many times in the past that letting people see the real her is terrifying and withholding the truth is a defense mechanism. 
  • While I loved Amanda’s build up of affection for Grant, the moments were short, stunted, and full of drama. I felt a little disconnected from the situation (this also has to do with scenes getting cut off). It also felt like it was moving crazy fast. One minute just hanging out, the next clothing removal. It was hard to grasp the amount of time passing in sections that weren’t specifically labeled with year and date, so it felt like only a week or two before full-blown love.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Read on, 

Jordan

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Cover Reveal: Forbidden Kisses by Addison Moore

AMAZON/NOOK/iBOOKS/SMASHWORDS/GOODREADS

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Rex Toberman is obnoxious and pretentious. So what if he’s the star quarterback? So what if my father is dating his mother? I can’t wait until he’s out of my life for good.                                                                
The day our parents announce their impending wedding becomes the worst day of my existence. Not only has Rex cemented himself in my social circle, but he’s about to cement himself into my family.

I don’t trust his mother. And I don’t want anything to do with her egotistical, womanizing son, but deep down the only way to get rid of them both is to do something unimaginable with Rex himself. I’m playing with fire, dancing in the flames of his wicked grin, and soon enough I’m melting. The last thing I want is to become another victim of Rex Toberman’s egotistical, womanizing ways.                                                    

But there’s something about those bedroom eyes, that lewd smile, that body made of steel I cannot resist.                                                        

Yes, getting rid of my soon-to-be stepbrother is tougher than I ever imagined—especially now that I never want him to leave.

***Country Kisses (3:AM Kisses 8) Releases May 5th***
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Addison Moore is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author who writes contemporary and paranormal romance. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine. Previously she worked as a therapist on a locked psychiatric unit for nearly a decade. She resides on the West Coast with her husband, four wonderful children, and two dogs where she eats too much chocolate and stays up way too late. When she’s not writing, she’s reading.
 
HEY, ADDISON MOORE FANS!
Go join her Fan Group the Addison Moore Reader Corner!
You’ll get sneak peeks, early reveals, interact with Addison herself, and have access to  exclusive giveaways!
REQUEST TO JOIN HERE: http://bit.ly/AddisonMooreRC
 

Be sure to subscribe to Addison’s mailing list for sneak peeks and updates on all upcoming releases!

Romantic reading, 
Jordan
 

ARC Review: Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

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Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends.

review

4/5 Stars

***I received this ARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review and as part of #FirstInLine

READ THIS BOOK IF:

  • You’re looking for a feel good story
  • You’ve lost someone
  • You’re still figuring out who you are, who you want to be, and who you’re becoming. If you’re human 😉 

Tell Me Three Things is refreshing and funny and honest. It’s a story of learning who you are and how you change after loss, but more, how you find yourself while falling in love for the first time. It’s silly and charming and full of those quintessential awkward and embarrassing moments that everyone experiences in high school and especially when talking to the opposite sex. Get ready to three things: (1) laugh, (2) learn, and (3) love.

PROS:

  • There are so many perfectly quotable and deep moments that sound so casual it’s crazy. Moments of identity, of embarrassing agency and power as a woman, as a person. 
  • Smiling. It’s impossible not to laugh and blush and smile. I relived so many moments in high school in these odd 300 pages and I’m still living some of those uncertain, floundering moments when dealing with someone you’re crushing on and body issues. Always. 
  • The mystery is killer. There are so many false leads, so many clues, and tons of hints that will point you in all sorts of directions. You have to know. NEED to know. And you’ll definitely have a favorite to ship.
  • Characters are real, vibrant, you’ll feel like you know them on a personal level and encountered them in real life. 
  • Jessie. I adore her. She’s so much stronger than she knows. Her insecurity is raw and honest, and she questions, she doesn’t understand how awesome she truly is. But who does in high school? She’s funny, a little nerdy, smart, and oh so turned upside-down in her new life. It’s crazy refreshing how authentic she is.It’s all there, front and center. She never pretends to be something she’s not.
  • SN. Everyone needs an SN to guide them through the insanity of high school, to make them laugh, to hold their hand when the loss threatens to consume, and when people are the worst. SN truly shows the power of building a relationship based on something more than the physical. SN is dorky, weird, shy, but playful. Seriously hot. Get ready to fall.  
  • It’s easy to get so consumed by your own drama that you lose sight of how others are suffering. That’s an important aspect of this story too. Loss doesn’t isolate you. You don’t do it alone. And you should never have to feel that way.

CONS:

  • The mean girl was overly cliché. It made things a little predictable.
  • It took forever for the reveal…so long.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Pleasant reading, 

Jordan

Guest Post & Giveaway: Trial by Charm by Jolene Buchheit

syn       Seventeen-year-old Julia Wright doesn’t understand her friends’ obsession with boys. She proudly maintains her composure no matter who is in her presence – though some annoying and rude boys still manage to grate her last nerve. Then she is blackmailed into being the manager of the men’s
swim team, and finds herself face to face with the worst of them all.
       Team Captain Vander Thelxinoe is the typical self-assured jock. He has the ability to change people’s minds at will, only his charms don’t work on Julia. Now he’s anxious to figure out why, and the closer he tries to get, the more desperate she is to stay away-especially when he somehow awakens a side of her she never knew existed.
       Their unexpected friendship puts Julia in the middle of a quest she doesn’t quite understand. As her familiar world begins to unravel around her, Julia must partner with the one person who knows how to push her buttons-and, in doing so, discovers the unbelievable truth about who she really is.
       Can Julia and Vander survive the trial set before them, or will they face the extreme consequences of failure?
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       As a substitute teacher, Jolene spends her days in high school classrooms harvesting material for her Young Adult novels. She also uses it as an outlet for fangirling by showing upcoming book-to-movie trailers at the end of class, or discussing vital issues like whether Katniss should have picked Gale or Peeta.
       She is committed to helping Special Education teenagers become independent adults and helping them find a way to focus on the positive especially when life gets hard. At home, Jolene loves to cuddle with her husband, two kids, and three cats-sometimes all at once-while reading Young Adult books or repeatedly watching movies based on them.

Excerpt
       I study his profile. His chiseled jaw and dark, floppy hair are like something out of a magazine advertisement. His eyes, too—they aren’t dark to match his hair, like mine—they are parts of green and blue, much like the painting of the sea in the other room.
       “Who painted that piece above the couch in there?”
        He shrugs, not answering me in any concrete way. Then he shifts his weight from one foot to the other and his awkwardness makes it clear to me.
       “You did it, didn’t you? You’re a painter.”
        He shrugs again. I hop down from my stool to go take another look at the painting. The artist must have signed it, and I will get my answer that way.
        I go down the hall, past the bathroom, the stairs, and the front door until I’m standing in the parlor, looking at Vander, who is blocking the painting from my view. He must have gone through the dining room next to the kitchen to end up in here before me. He’s staring at me and chewing on his lip while flexing and balling his hands. He’s more nervous than I have ever seen him—not before a swim meet, not in class when he didn’t know an answer, not when he told me how he felt in the bathroom a little bit ago. This is where his heart lies, in this painting of this island.
        I try to look around him, and he leans over.
        “Don’t.” He is stern, but gentle. He clears his throat. “Please don’t touch it. You will want to, but don’t.”
        He’s right. I do want to touch it; I want to climb inside of it. I’m seeing it, and somehow it’s seeing me, and it’s making me feel pulled apart. I want to dive into the waters, to swim to that far-off land, and I also want to turn the boat around and sail as far and as quickly as I can in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, the light from the sun is dimming, laughing at me for thinking I can have any control here.
I want in!
        Vander grabs both of my arms, which are currently outstretched toward the painting. My knees are on the seat of the couch, and I don’t even remember moving forward. His voice startles me. “You can’t.”
        I blink hard and turn to look him fully in the face. “I can’t what?”
        “You can’t go there, and you can’t go away from there. It’s just a painting.” Was I talking out loud, or can he read my mind? How does he know what I was thinking? I let him lead me through the dining room, back into the kitchen, where the timer is going off. I shake my head to let loose the feelings that painting stirred in me.
        “It’s more than that, and you know it. How?” I don’t even have to finish the sentence. He knows exactly what I’m asking.
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Enter for your chance to win a signed paperback of Trial By Charm, bookmark, and an evil eye necklace
Magical reading, 
Jordan

Cover Reveal: Will of Fire by Yasmin Fazli

Release Date: May 24th, 2016
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       Elle knew that unraveling the secrets on Acryen would be difficult, but she didn’t know that it would be deadly. She knew this from the scars on her body and the heat in her eyes.
       Three months have passed and what was meant to be an easy journey across the ocean has turned perilous as she’s come to realize that they’ve boarded the wrong ship—a slaver’s ship run by a cunning and devious man known only as Captain Red. Elle can’t help but find herself drawn to him and repelled at the same time. Yet, when a powerful hurricane hits the ship and Elle’s life is in danger, Peter’s hidden powers awaken, and now, they’re in trouble. The stakes are much higher than before, and Elle’s afraid that the only way out is with blood.
       Elle must find the necklace awaiting in Gyoar before an elf meets her end, a quaid falls prey, a mother commits treason, and a king masks his mistake.
       But above all, she must find it before her fate is sealed in ashes.
       Because where hope lies, fire breathes.
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Yasmin Fazli was born and raised in Southern California, changing schools her whole life. Now, she is an undergraduate college student studying biology to satisfy her love for the sciences. Yet, another part of her started to show more and more: her love for writing. She often dreams of mystical places and the perfect bad boy/prince charming who will come sweep her away. Until those happen, she continues to write away, living her fantasies through typed words with all kinds of sweets in one hand and a cup of chai tea in the other hopeful that one day her words could inspire even just one person.
Find her on Youtube, Instagram, or Twitter @YasminFazli
Magical reading, 
Jordan

ARC Review: The Last Boy and Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian

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What if your town was sliding underwater and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together?

While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses. Canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together.

And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

There’s a weird sort of bravery that comes from knowing there’s nothing left to lose. You might do things you normally wouldn’t. Or say things you shouldn’t. The reward almost always outweighs the risk.

Almost.

It’s the end of Aberdeen, but the beginning of Keeley’s first love story. It just might not turn out the way she thought. Because it’s not always clear what’s worth fighting for and what you should let become a memory.

review

3/5 Stars

***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley & Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

PROS:

  • Here’s what I loved: Realistic depictions of that crushing and unsettling loss when best friendships dissolve over time. That heartbreaking moment when you realize that when turning points in life happen, friends, no matter how true, sometimes are changing just as much as you are and that the result isn’t always going to mesh with the new “you” you’ve become. Sometimes, as we grow, we need space, and that space is not always surmountable. It’s tough, and brutal, and unfortunate, but true. There were points where I wanted to dislike certain characters, but it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. When you only see one side of the story, the whole spectrum of feelings and emotions on the other side are just poignant. That letter. Harsh, and bittersweet, but oh so honest. 
  • The premise is fantastic. There’s a whole lot going on and it’s super shady, it puts all the corruption that can happen in cities when it comes to money and land into perspective and may just open some eyes. The opening of the story is AMAZING. Just enough mystery and crazy to drag you in and leave you thirsting for more. Who is that boy? Why are their houses under water? What is this pseudo-Atlantis happening? 
  • What I like about Keeley is that she’s imperfect and real. She makes terrible, horrible, selfish mistakes, and despite how she lies to herself, they aren’t always made of good intentions. Keeley chooses to push her feelings aside and shuck off reality in order to have a good time. When faced with the absolute certainty of what stands in front of her, she has to reevaluate everything she is and who she hopes to become. Truly an insightful coming of age novel. Keeley is also funny, loud, aggressive, and awkward…which sometimes reads as juvenile, but charming. It’s hard to dislike her. 

CONS:

  • The organization and pacing were off. Apart from the epic intro, things sort of fizzled out and became a quest for a somewhat silly romance and fallout. It seemed to start with a climax and end with disaster, the middle was hard to sludge through and oh so slow. 
  • The story felt sporadic and random, like it didn’t know what exactly it was trying to be. The romantic elements felt a little monotonous and not really exciting. Keeley and Jesse are…okay. While it did give off that rush of a first crush and the butterflies when he starts to notice, it was almost too easy and fell into place so fast that it made you wonder why it didn’t happen sooner and if it were worth it in the first place. 
  • The whole thing with the principal. I don’t get it. It felt like random animosity inserted with little reason and it distracted from the rest of what was going on. 

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

 Interesting reading, 

Jordan

Release Week Blitz & Giveaway: The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound | Goodreads

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Twin sisters. A fatal accident. A devastating lie. Which girl survived?

“A girl takes over her twin sister’s identity in this emotionally charged page-turner about the complicated bond between sisters.”

Ella and Maddy Lawton are identical twins. Ella has spent her high school years living in popular Maddy’s shadows, but she has never been envious of Maddy. In fact, she’s chosen the quiet, safe confines of her sketchbook over the constant battle for attention that has defined Maddy’s world.

When–after a heated argument–Maddy and Ella get into a tragic accident that leaves Maddy dead, Ella wakes up in the hospital surrounded by loved ones who believe she is Maddy. Feeling responsible for Maddy’s death and everyone’s grief, Ella makes a split-second decision to pretend to be Maddy. And everyone believes her. Caught in a web of lies, Ella is faced with two options–confess her deception and risk devastating those who loved Maddy, or give up her own dreams and live her sister’s life.

“Leaver’s brilliant novel is the high school version of What Happened to Janie? The compelling premise will attract readers and the strong characterization will keep them enthralled.”

-VOYA, STARRED REVIEW

*“Leaver’s story is certainly entertaining and intriguing. VERDICT This should be a primary purchase for any library with patrons who love melodramatic mysteries and romance.”

-SLJ, STARRED AUDIO REVIEW

“Trisha Leaver crafts a powerful and haunting novel that will keep you up long after you read the last page. Full of twists and turns and FEELS, this book questions how far a person will go for her family . . . even if it means losing herself.”

– Lynne Matson, author of NIL

ExcerptI don’t remember her room being so cold. Even snuggled into her sweater the chill seeps in, settling into my bones like a whisper from beyond. That’s where I will sleep tonight…in Maddy’s bed, surround by her scent. Mom wants to change the sheets, but I won’t let her. The hint of vanilla mingled with Alex’s dark cologne brings a little piece of my sister back to me each night.

The only thing I have left of my old life is a few sketches and a poor replica of the friendship bracelet Josh gave me. It took me days to re-create, to weave the strings into the right pattern. It’s not perfect, but it goes with me everywhere, a tiny reminder of who I once was and what Josh still means to me. The real bracelet is gone, cut off and tossed aside just like my life.

I want to make peace with my choice, but Maddy’s secret haunts me. The dark pieces of her life are hid- den in the back of her closet for no one but me to see. She’s not who I thought she was, but that doesn’t matter. Maddy was my sister, my twin sister, and I’ll do anything for her, including losing myself.

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“There was a fear behind his words, a fear that I would change my mind and reveal a secret I didn’t even know.”

“I am already gone. I died that night on the side of the road with my sister.”

auth Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Trisha Leaver lives on Cape Cod with her husband, three children, and one rather disobedient black lab. She is a chronic daydreamer who prefers the cozy confines of her own imagination to the mundane routine of everyday life. She writes Young Adult Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Psychological Horror and Science Fiction and is published with FSG/ Macmillan, Flux/Llewellyn and Merit Press. Her YA Contemporary, THE SECRETS WE KEEP, was named one of the best YA novels for summer (2015) by Teen Vogue and received starred reviews from VOYA Magazine and School Library Journal (audio). For more details, check out her website at http://www.trishaleaver.com

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Captivating reading, 

Jordan